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Crisis in Lebanon Worsens Following Invasion of Guerrilla Forces from Syria

The crisis in Lebanon worsened today as guerrilla forces invaded from Syria and battled Lebanese Army regulars near the eastern border. Pro-guerrilla forces were reported to be in possession of more than half of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, north of Beirut. In the capital itself, a strict curfew was in effect.

A spokesman in Beirut referred to the invaders as “armed men” and said two were killed and six wounded when regular forces counter-attacked. There were reports of an occupation of the eastern Lebanon frontier village of Yanta by El Fatah guerrillas. Fighting was reported between Lebanese soldiers and guerrillas at Bint Jbeil, a village close to the Israeli border in southern Lebanon.

The fighting and rioting which broke out in Tripoli and in Beirut in the last few days has been fanned by El Fatah radio broadcasts from Damascus and Cairo. The broadcasts exhorted “honest elements” in Lebanon to drive out the “American presence” and those who support it. The guerrillas demanded that Lebanon permit them a free hand to carry out their war against Israel from its territory. The guerrillas are strongly supported by Syria and Iraq. Lebanese authorities did not accuse the Syrian Army of invading the country but left no doubt that they held the Syrian Government responsible for the guerrilla invasion.

The El Fatah radio in Cairo assailed the United States as the instigator of the Lebanese regime’s anti-guerrilla drive. It accused the U.S. of planning to land troops in Lebanon as it did in 1958 when the regime of then President Camille Chamoun was threatened by a pro-Nasser coup. “We will increase our measures until Lebanon takes on a real Arab aspect and sweeps out its treasonable clique and takes its full role in the Arab battle for the liberation of the occupied territory,” the Cairo broadcast said.

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